IIM-C alumni’s ‘pay after placement’ startup wants to build the Zomato for skilling and hiring

Hyderabad-based Xcelero aggregates skilling courses, and matches recruiters with suitable tech talent on a single platform. It has acquired 50,000 users in a year.

IIM Calcutta alumnus Savita Srivastava became an entrepreneur after a decade of serving in sales and business development roles at GE Healthcare. In 2019, she joined hands with her IIM-C batchmate Satish Dadi to start Xcelero

Their goal was simple: to build a Zomato or Amazon for professional education. 

The Hyderabad-based startup has built an AI-based aggregator platform to solve skilling, mentoring, and hiring needs. It targets both candidates and recruiters and aims to address the skill gap and employability challenges in the tech industry. 

Founder-CEO Savita tells YourStory, “Before building the product, we did market research and interacted with over 3,000 students and professors across colleges in India. We also spoke to working professionals in the IIM-C alumni network. What we realised was that the global skilling market is flooded with courses, but most people are clueless about what is the right solution to fulfil their career goals.” 

Xcelero is an AI-based aggregator for skilling and hiring needs

So, Xcelero set out to do the matchmaking between skills and opportunities. 

The platform went live in May 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown when people’s appetite for upskilling and e-learning was at its peak.

Prior to that, Xcelero also conducted workshops, hackathons, webinars, and mock interviews, to acquire learners. 

What the platform offers?

Xcelero aggregates training and upskilling courses for engineers, designers, data scientists, and management students; assesses their candidature using offline and online tools; and then matches them with the right placement opportunities. 

Not only does it list courses from institutional providers, the startup also allows companies, trainers, and freelancers to sell courses directly to students.

There are 300+ programmes on Blockchain, AI, Machine Learning, Data Science, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Web Development, and Engineering Design. 

Savita says,

“Anybody can upload their courses after the initial quality screening is done by us. Learners can search for the right course based on their skills, area of interest, pricing, rating, reviews, and location.”

Xcelero aggregates courses from 15 skilling partners, including upGrad and Simplilearn

Xcelero has roped in over 15 skilling partners, including upGrad and Simplilearn. The startup also plans to expand its course offering to prep content for job interviews. It is even sourcing learning content directly from industry experts. 

On the client side, Xcelero helps hiring partners with a curated pool of potential hires at 50 percent of the time and money. It matches recruiters with the right talent, and offers them tools to assess CVs, chat with candidates, and make them placement offers. It has listed 100+ job opportunities in technology so far. 

“Startups end up paying a lot to subscribe to HR solutions even if they have to hire a small number (10-15) of candidates. We are reducing those costs drastically. We charge them only if they download a résumé,” says the founder.

In future, Xcelero plans to create industry-supported innovation labs within engineering college campuses, and beef up placements for students. 

Business model and growth

The bootstrapped startup claims to have more than 50,000 users, and is looking to grow it to two million by the end of 2022. It is also looking to onboard 100+ hiring partners by then. 

“We have hit a monthly run rate (MRR) of Rs 2 lakh, and it is meeting our current expenses,” Savita shares. 

Course aggregation is its biggest revenue generator. Xcelero charges the provider 12 percent transaction fee whenever a course is sold. In some cases, it also charges a premium marketing fee to push courses in terms of discoverability.

“This is similar to Zomato charging restaurants for advertising within the app,” the founder reveals.

On the hiring side, Xcelero operates on a ‘pay after placement’ model. It charges a success fee (8 percent of the candidate’s CTC) after they are placed in a job. It is also planning to launch subscriptions for hiring partners, where they can download CVs in bulk. “Vidéo résumés are in demand, and it is our unique feature,” Savita says.

The startup is targeting revenues of Rs 25 crore by 2023. It recently enabled international currencies (USD, Euro, and AUD) and is attracting foreign learners too.

Xcelero Founder Savita (R) with Rama Devi Lanka, Director of Emerging Technology, Govt of Telangana

Future roadmap and industry overview

Savita says, “Almost all edtech companies are now promising placements. But the industry placement rate is less than 30 percent. That is why we are giving free access to job opportunities after the skilling process within this closed loop.”

Until now, Xcelero’s focus has been on IT jobs across Indian and the US companies with compensation of Rs 5-30 LPA. It has enabled more than 50 placements in 2021. With the first round of funding later this year, it could expand to other job sectors too. 

Skill gap and job readiness is a burning issue globally. In India, more so. 

In 2019, 53 percent of Indian businesses were unable to hire candidates due to a lack of future job skills, according to the International Labour Organisation. The ILO further projects that India is staring at a skill deficit of 29 million by 2030.

As industries digitise rapidly, this problem will only compound. Xcelero competes with Relevel (owned by Unacademy), AlmaBetter, Skill-Lync, Bridgelabz, Newton School, SkillEnable, KnowledgeHut (recently acquired by upGrad), and others. 

“The market is competitive, but we’re sure to get our own cuts in the global skilling market, which will be worth $4 billion in the next five years,” Savita states.

She signs off by saying, “We're building a learners’ database. No one has done that yet.”

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Edited by Megha Reddy


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